If you plan on buying them something consider:

1.    Really good lotion!  Parents must do a 3 minute scrub each time they enter the NICU.  This is really tough on the skin!

2.   Gift cards for gas, groceries, food, coffee, etc.

3.   A journal and nice pens.

4.  Books to read to their baby.

5.   Music to play to their baby.

6.   Grab and go food.

7.   Small travel coolers for food and or breast milk.

8.  Special gifts and/or activities for siblings.

 If you plan to do something for them:

1.    Cook meals that can be reheated.

2.   Mow/shovel etc.

3.   Take care of family pets.

4.  Provide transportation.

5.   Babysit other children

6.   Be available to help in case of emergencies (especially in the middle of the night)

Ask what the family needs.  They might not know what they need right away.  Give them some suggestions.  Accept “no” for an answer. 

Don’t tell them that “it’s OK.”  Their baby is in the hospital-even if the baby will be okay, it does not FEEL “okay!”

NICU experiences can be very traumatic and stressful regardless of the length of stay.  Expect strong emotions and possibly even unexpected behaviors.

You know you are a NICU Mom if:

1-      You automatically do a 3 minute scrub before doing…anything.

2-      You know your baby’s heart rate, breaths per minute, and “sats” at any given time during the day.

3-      You consider the word “Kangaroo” to be a verb.

4-      You really would cry over spilled milk.

5-      You know the definition of any of the following: RDS, PDA, ROP, NEC, PICC, TPN, NG, RT, OT, HUS, etc. etc. etc.

6-      Your idea of going out to eat is leaving the hospital to pick up fast food.

7-      You spend up to 6 hours a day with your best friend.

8-      Your best friend is a breast pump.

9-      You get excited when your baby poops.

10-   You think a 5lb baby is a good size.

11-   You think a 7lb baby is big.

12-   If you have a 5lb baby or a 7lb baby you think he or she is a giant compared to your “neighbors.”

FINALLY— You know you are a NICU mom if you have a little person in your life that you refuse to give up on, that you love unconditionally, and that you just can’t wait to help discover the world beyond the NICU doors.

For Lack of a Better Word…..Visiting

To new parents a NICU is usually an overwhelming and scary place.  It is filled with beeping machines, tubes, wires, flashing lights, busy medical staff, worried families, and sick babies.  Scariest of all, is that their precious little baby, is hooked up to the tubes, wires, and flashing lights, generally surrounded by busy medical staff…and them-the worried family, looking on, trying to stay out of the way. 

Generally, after a day or two, things calm down.  “Visiting” is no longer a completely traumatic experience.  However, it is still generally referred to as “visiting.”  While so many efforts are made to help parents feel comfortable, to help them be parents, this term reinforces a barrier between them and their babies.

Some parents are determined and actualized.  They understand that they are not visiting their child, but are in the NICU to take care of their baby.  Even if this means singing and reading to, praying for and staring at their baby- they are part of the care team.  Unfortunately, these parents are in the minority.  Most feel like visitors, and it shows.

As we are all working to make Family Centered Care a reality, we must consider even the smallest detail.  For parents to be effective members of their babies’ care teams, they must not consider themselves as visitors in the NICU.  Helping families feel comfortable among beeping machines, tubes, wires, flashing lights, busy medical staff, other worried families, and sick babies is no small feat.  But, it can be done.  It must be done.  A great place to start is to leave behind our word “visiting” and replace it…with “parenting.”

From ND to DC

ND volunteer Karen Macdonald and Reba Mathern-Jacobson, Director of Program Services for the ND Chapter, joined almost 100 March of Dimes volunteers and staff to brave the unseasonable spring snow to speak up for pregnant women, infants and families on Capitol Hill! Over 150 meetings were conducted with Congressional offices to ask them to support funding for maternal and child health programs, passage of the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act, and extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) until 2019.
Over two fabulous days, staff and volunteers attended interactive trainings to build both issues expertise and advocacy skills, as well as hearing from policy and political experts.


A recent study at Brown University demonstrates the importance of talking to babies in the NICU.  This study, led by Dr. Betty Vohr, concluded that language development later on in the preemies life is benefitted by how much conversation is directed toward the baby while in the NICU. Babies who are spoken to directly, such as “Hi baby, mom is here”, see a much higher benefit then babies who are exposed to others simply talking around them.

This study observed 36 pre-term infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and recorded the amount of language directed at the baby both at 32 weeks and 36 weeks development (8 and 4 weeks before baby’s official due date.)  They then assessed the language development of the infants at 7 months and 18 months.  The study found that for every 100 words spoken to the infant while in the NICU, there was a 2 point increase in their language scores at 18 months.

Previous studies have also shown that while babies can’t vocally participate in the conversation, they will turn their head in the direction of their mother’s voice.

In all of the commotion and emotion that comes with having a baby in the NICU it is reassuring for parents to know there is something simple they can do to help their little one.

source: TIME


A conference in Florida during the month of February may sound like a fantastic getaway to most people.  Don’t get me wrong, knowing that just outside the walls of the conference rooms sat sand and palm trees instead of snow and ice was wonderful- but after seeing the agenda for

the 2014 Gravens Conference- I knew that sand and sun would not be in my future!  At this annual conference for neonatologists, nurses, therapists and March of Dimes staff we learned about everything from fetal mouth movements in feedings, to scientific foundations for compassionate care, and spirituality in the NICU, to the newest plans that March of Dimes has for the NICU Family Support Program.  With all of the information presented I had to go through my notes and redigest everything I had learned!  I cannot list all of the session takeaways that I was given but here are a few:

  • Things we knew antidotally about Kangaroo Care (skin to skin holding), and loving touches sounds and smells (such as mother’s scent) are now being backed up by medical evidence such as EEGs.
  • I have the ability to support early relationships through helping families to be with, know, relate and give care to their babies through guided activities.
  • I can help the family “write a story” that they can live with for the rest of their lives.

I came back from the Gravens Conference even more excited to help families in the NICU that I was when I left! AND my friends, family, coworkers and NICU families who were all jealous of my trip to Florida were happy to hear that it was cloudy, windy and rainy the entire time!

Cassie Skalicky, NICU Family Support Specialist


Did you know there is currently no law in North Dakota regulating the sale of E-cigarettes to minors?  Anyone under the age of 18 can purchase these devices according to North Dakota state law.

However, e-cigarette use by our minors may lead to future tobacco use.  Communities are stepping up and passing ordinances across the state to prevent sale to minors.  Bismarck, Fargo and Williston have all passed ordinances preventing the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Mandan City Commissioners vote to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors tomorrow night, let them hear your support! http://www.cityofmandan.com/index.asp?Type=B_DIR&SEC={7827845C-02FC-4892-91AF-CA70C5C9F105}

Ordinance no. 1180 is an ordinance to amend and re-enact Section 13-21-02 of the Mandan Code of Ordinances relating to tobacco products and to amend and re-enact Section 19-06-03 of the Mandan Code of Ordinances relating to offenses involving minors.  This ordinance includes electronic cigarettes into the city’s definition of tobacco products.  Any ordinance already in place that relates to tobacco products, such as not selling tobacco products to minors, will now include electronic cigarettes under this ordinance.   Electronic cigarettes will be defined as any electronic oral device, such as one composed of a heating element, battery, and/or electronic circuit, which provides a vapor of nicotine or any other substances, and the use or inhalation of which simulates smoking.


Electronic Cigarettes or e-cigarettes are a battery operated device that delivers nicotine to the user.  The smoker inhales the nicotine, flavor and other chemicals in aerosol form coming from the device.  E-cigarettes are not currently being regulated by the FDA.  Potentially harmful components have been documented in some e-cigarette cartridges, including irritants, genotoxins, and animal carcinogens.  We do not know the impact of this new vapor on users and those around the user.

We do know that this device delivers nicotine, a highly addictive drug, and that the device is catching the interest of our youth.  With its appealing flavors such as chocolate, bubble gum and fruit punch, children are drawn to the device and consequently may become addicted to nicotine after continued use.  This addiction may lead our youth to try other tobacco products

Tell a friend about Text4Baby!

Do you know someone who’s expecting a baby?  Have a baby under the age of one? Then tell them about text4baby!

In honor of text4baby’s 4th birthday we at the North Dakota Chapter of March of Dimes are revamping our promotion efforts of the free text messaging service; text4baby. Text4baby is a free health service for families who are expecting or who have an infant under the age of 1!  It’s easy to signup, all the service needs is your phone number and your due date or baby’s birth date.

Families simply text BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411 to receive three free text messages per week throughout their pregnancy and their baby’s first year. The interactive messages are personalized to the mother’s due date or baby’s birth date. Text4baby messages contain additional information, mobile webpages, videos, appointment and immunization reminders, and more requests for participant feedback.

“Text4baby has provided over 678,000 moms with critical health and safety information for the last four years,” said Janice Frey-Angel, CEO of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (credit dontrell). “We continue to strengthen the service and find new, innovative ways to serve our audience for years to come.”

We encourage women across the state to participate in this free service to promote the health of our mothers and babies.  We also urge for fathers and other caretaking family members to participate as well, you can never have too many people educated about your baby’s health!

For more information visit https://text4baby.org/


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., JAN. 17, 2014 ­­­– A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General confirms that smoking during pregnancy causes babies to be born with cleft lip and cleft palate.

“We now have confirmation that smoking during pregnancy can damage the health of both mothers and babies.  By quitting smoking before or during pregnancy, a woman will not only improve her own health; she may save her baby from being born too small and with a serious, disfiguring birth defect,” said Edward R. B. McCabe, MD, March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer. “Smoking during pregnancy exposes the baby to dangerous chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar. These chemicals can reduce how much oxygen the baby gets, affecting the baby’s growth and development.”

“The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress,” was released by the Surgeon General today in honor of the landmark 1963 report that documented the death and disease caused by smoking.

The report also stated that each year about 1,000 infant deaths can be attributed to smoking. Of those, about 40 percent are classified as sudden infant death syndrome, the unexplained death of a baby under a year old while sleeping.

More than 7,000 babies are born in the U.S. each year born with an oral cleft birth defect and smoking increases the risk by 30 to 50 percent; this increased risk can be prevented by quitting smoking. About 23 percent of women smoke during pregnancy.

There are two types of oral cleft defects, a cleft lip, in which a baby’s upper lip doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it; and a cleft palate, in which the roof of the mouth doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it. Both cause feeding problems, and may lead to ear infections, hearing problems, difficulty speaking, and dental problems.

In addition to oral cleft defects, smoking during pregnancy is known to contribute to preterm birth and stillbirth.

March of Dimes chapters nationwide fund quit smoking programs for women, and you can learn more from the chapter in your area. The March of Dimes also has information for women about quitting smoking on its website at:  http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/smoking-during-pregnancy.aspx

Tips  to help quit include:

  • Write down your reasons for quitting. Look at the list when you are tempted to smoke.
  • Choose a “quit day.” On that day, throw away all your cigarettes or cigars, lighters and ashtrays.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep your hands busy using a small stress ball or doing some needlework.
  • Keep yourself occupied, too. Try going for a walk or doing chores to keep your mind off of cravings.
  • Snack on some raw veggies or chew some sugarless gum to ease the need to have something in your mouth.
  • Stay away from places, activities or people that make you feel like smoking.
  • Ask your partner or a friend to help you quit.
  • Ask your health care provider about quitting aids such as patches, gum, nasal spray and medications. Don’t start using these without your health care provider’s okay, especially if you’re pregnant.